Grieving family warns of fake pills after losing 28-year-old to fentanyl overdose

Deadly fentanyl: Equivalent of 6 grains of salt in one pill can be lethal

It’s a deadly game of Russian Roulette any time a person takes a drug not prescribed by a licensed and accredited medical professional.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – It’s a deadly game of Russian Roulette any time a person takes a drug not prescribed by a licensed and accredited medical professional.

Last year the Drug Enforcement Administration seized 20 million fake pills and four out of 10 of those pills that had fentanyl contained a potentially lethal dose.

These fake drugs are killing more people every year and resulting in families losing loved ones who never had a chance at survival.

The Millwood family believes their loved one, Jonathan, who died of a fentanyl overdose two years ago, didn’t know he was taking the powerful drug.

Jonathan Millwood was lost to fentanyl at age 28. (WJXT)

The DEA said most of the counterfeit pills are brought into the United States from Mexico, with China supplying the chemicals to make the fentanyl.

Jonathan Millwood was the youngest of three children and the only boy. His two big sisters adored him. Johnathan completed their family.

“He’s always had his two big sisters looking out for him,” Whitney Millwood, Jonathan’s sister, said.

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“He’s a great kid. Well, I know I’m his dad so I’m biased. But he really was a great kid,” Jack Millwood said.

Whitney and Jack Millwood said Jonathan had a big personality -- and he also had anxiety. A doctor prescribed him Xanax in college, but at some point, Jonathan lost control.

“He started taking a lot more of it, more than he was supposed to, and became dependent on it,” Whitney Millwood said.

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After college, Jonathan agreed to go to rehab.

“He was doing great. And we thought, you know, he hadn’t taken a pill or anything for years -- probably four years,” Whitney Millwood said.

During the pandemic, Jonathan was haunted again. He was living in San Diego, away from his family, at the time, and found comfort in a familiar demon. But with no prescription, his family believes he went to Mexico to buy Xanax illegally.

Jonathan Millwood struggled with addiction and died from a fentanyl overdose at age 28. (Provided by family)

“We talked to the DEA and all the officials and it was laced by somebody in Mexico trying to cut down on the cost of production to make their profit margins higher,” Jack Millwood said.

Jonathan’s pill had a deadly dose of fentanyl.

“Till the day I die, I will never forget sitting on my bed with these two girls under my arms crying, and me wanting to help them, but I was hurting as bad as they were,” Jack Millwood said.

“It’s just such a shock to think about. Because when you think about and you hear about overdoses, think about people that are, you know, drug addicts, are living on the street or they are homeless, I know that it can really just happen to anyone,” Whitney Millwood said.

It doesn't take much fentanyl to be deadly -- just the equivalent of six grains of salt in one pill can be lethal. (WJXT)

It doesn’t take much fentanyl to be deadly, just the equivalent of six grains of salt in one pill can be lethal.

DEA Assistant Special Agent in Charge in Jacksonville Mike Dubet described the strength of these pills: “The level of it is 50 times more potent than heroin, 100 times more potent than morphine.”

Dubet didn’t work on Jonathan’s case but said this is not a game and that you have to assume that any pill that doesn’t come from a licensed pharmacy is dangerous.

“The fake pills are fentanyl pills. That’s what they are. They’re not being sold as fentanyl pills. They’re being sold as Adderall or Oxycodone or Percocet. But they aren’t. They’re pills that contain fentanyl,” Dubet said.

It’s a game of Russian Roulette that robbed Jonathan’s family of a lifetime with him. Now that he’s gone, it’s a painful story this family shares with one goal.

“If we can help just one other family from not having to feel the pain that we feel and not having to have that regret, then that would mean a lot,” Whitney Millwood said.

“And that would be the driving force for why I want to tell the story -- is if I could keep just one family from ever having to go through this. It would be great,” Jack Millwood said.

Jonathan’s family has a lot of regret that they did not understand the dangers of these fake pills. The DEA’s “One Pill Can Kill” campaign has a wealth of information to empower people to know the dangers. There are parent resources and ways to talk to your kids about these drugs. Dea.gov/onepill will allow you to educate yourself. Share the information with someone you love and maybe even save a life.


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Anchor on The Morning Show team and reporter specializing on health issues.